The fall of gun control: Terror, hurricanes spur gun ownership
Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2006 @ 21:39:43 CST
Topic: ICarry.org Financial


The fall of gun control: Terror, hurricanes spur gun ownership

By Tom Collins and Shelby Sebens
lasallereporter@newstrib.com

As printed in the N Central Illinois Tribune

No one was more outraged than Allan Vander Meersch when Illinois proposed charging gun owners $650 to carry a firearm owner’s ID card — a whopping increase from the current $5 fee.

The Spring Valley machinist, who draws a modest living selling firearms and ammunition at gun shows, was not surprised by the move, however.

Vander Meersch began hunting with his father at age 5 and joined the National Rifle Association in 1970. In the 30 years since, he’s been quick to phone legislators to support or oppose gun legislation. Mostly, it’s been in opposition.

“The atmosphere for gun ownership has changed 300 percent — 100 percent for every 10 years I’ve been involved,” Vander Meersch said. “It’s not changing in a direction that favors people who own firearms.”

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Like the gun-rights organizations he belongs to, Vander Meersch describes himself as non-partisan and said he votes for candidates from either side if he approves of their Second Amendment voting records — a position that usually aligns him with the GOP.

That may be changing, however.

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks and especially since Hurricane Katrina, Americans are taking pro-gun positions. Both events underscored the ease with which civil order can collapse, and have renewed people’s interest in home security.

Democrats have been getting the message that gun control is becoming a loser with voters. Since 2000, some Democrats — though not all — have begun courting the gun lobby to get endorsements

lobby to get endorsements and contributions.

“Every American with any sense at all got a clear sense that the government can’t protect you,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, based in Chatsworth. “If you look at Hurricane Katrina, you see that they may not be interested in protecting you.”

The gun constituency in Illinois is not small. State police reports there are about 1.2 million valid FOID cardholders — nearly 10 percent of the overall population — and the agency process more than 200,000 new applications a year.

Chicago remains squarely in the hands of gun-control stalwarts such as mayor Richard M. Daley, but Pearson said downstate and even suburban Democrats are moving away from gun control.

“Many of the people who are traditional Democrats — I would say labor and many women — are discovering that the values they hold, particularly on firearms, are not typical of the values of the Democratic Party,” Pearson said. “If that continues, the liberals in the Democratic Party will be further isolated.”

Campaign finance records back that up. Prior to 2000, ISRA didn’t give a cent to any Democrats in the Illinois statehouse.

But in 2001, former state Rep. Mary K. O’Brien of Coal City (now an appellate justice in Ottawa), whose district included eastern La Salle County, accepted a $250 contribution. She was one of six Democrats to get $1,580 in contributions from ISRA.

Republicans continue to draw the lion’s share of dollars from the gun lobby, but O’Brien, her successor Careen Gordon (D-Coal City), and state Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley), all have drawn recommendations from the gun lobby.






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